It's the Creative Economy Stupid

11/06/2017 10:30 am ET

During the Clinton presidency democratic strategist James Carville, was fond of saying, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Much the same could be said today.

The stimulus and all the federal policies in the world will not help if all we do is prop up the old economy. It is rather the new economy, the creative economy begging for attention.

When John Howkins first reported on The Creative Economy in his book by the same name in 2001, he was talking mostly about the industries we knew well like publishing, theater, theatrical films, music and dance, painting, television and so on.

Even today, as Americans for the Arts released their 5th Annual Report on the creative economy, the same industries, with a few additions like video games and I phone apps, spell the fastest growing sector of the economy.

But the economy is in reality much bigger.

Think about this.

Globalization 3.0, which the world has shrunk to a size “tiny” as author Thomas Friedman calls it, and introduced outsourcing to find the cheapest labor has changes the nature of work and the size of the workforce as never before. This movement has not only affected the makeup of the workforce in the developed world, it has accelerated the pervasive spread of technology everywhere, changing the thinking skills needed in the new economy. Outsourcing and off-shoring hurt. Artificial Intelligence machines will be devastating.

Now say researchers from Oxford University, “nearly half of all jobs are vulnerable to machines — to applications using information technology.” It was predicted that more than 47 percent of the jobs that exist today would be gone — forever — over the next 20 years.

The new jobs most of which have not yet been invented, will require new thinking skills enabling workers to create and innovate, benchmarks of the new economy. It is clear we cannot innovate without creativity. But we cannot be creative unless we embrace those techniques that nurture the creative spirit.

As Sir Ken Robinson, international expert on creativity and education has said, “We are all born creative” ... “ but “creativity gets squeezed out of us” about the 4th grade.

It seems everyone agrees that Innovation is the key to our economic prowess, and that creativity is necessary to innovation. But the role the arts play is not yet understood.

Public Art , Art Institutions and Art and Cultural Districts will help transform our cities as will things like “WOW,” the La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Festival, which brought together The New Children’s Museum, the San Diego Public Library, Horton Plaza Park, Westfield, Bread and Salt, and Border X Brewing, and hundreds of individuals and organizations, according to press spokesperson, Becky Biegelsen “to feature multiple innovative and immersive productions, including pieces by MacArthur “genius” fellow Basil Twist and 2017 Tony winner Mimi Lien, set in a series of exciting locations in and around downtown San Diego.”

Arts integration, project based learning and design thinking in our schools and other community efforts to help our citizens appreciate the role of the arts is vital. The arts are fundamental to our efforts to reinvent our schools, our communities and our nation.

To accomplish our goals, however, we desperately need to be willing to change the paradigm and meet the challenges of a global economy. Arts leaders, artists and art administrators and so many others who see what must happen if we are to preserve the human species owe it to themselves and their communities to seize the mantle of leadership.
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